When Dr. Stefan Du Toit began working with Valemount residents last year to help them lose weight, he didn’t know just how popular the diet plan would become.
But with success stories that are no short of miraculous – diabetics no longer on medication, obese people who have lost 100 pounds and are now runners – it’s no wonder the diet has caught on.
“I’ve never seen a diabetic come off medication,” Du Toit says. “You rather add on medication as time goes on.”
Du Toit, who was nominated for two Healthier You Awards – one for Health and Wellness Educator of the Year, the other for Health and Wellness Provider of the Year, is a slim man who divides his time between the clinic and his family.
He says he doesn’t know exactly why he was nominated for the awards, which are intended to honour those who have gone above and beyond their duties in their chosen health field to promote healthy living across cultures in northern B.C.
Du Toit started Eat Right for Life at the end of January 2010. It started out with a few staff members who were interested in weight loss. It has since attracted more than 100 people to join his weekly Wednesday sessions, where he counsels patients as part of a “drop-in group medical appointment” or DIGMA as he calls it, which is free of charge.
“It became more primary prevention than a weight loss thing,” he says. “The focus became not only weight loss but to prevent heart disease and diabetes.”
While the first group of staff members stuck to his plan, he kept statistics on blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. He says from there, word spread about the huge impact of the diet on the health of participants.
Nathalie Olson was one of the people who nominated Dr. Du Toit for the Healthier You Awards based on her experience with the diet. Olson wasn’t too enthusiastic about joining a diet group, but she decided to accompany her husband who was going for his diabetes.
“It was just a remarkable experience,” she says.
Her husband John was taking medication to help him deal with his diabetes and blood pressure. She says diabetes is a disease that wears quietly away at your body, such as your feet and your eyes. John lost 70 pounds, but that’s not the only important thing. He now takes no medication whatsoever.
“It’s the pills that I’ve lost and the control of my diseases,” John says. “It’s very powerful.”
He’s been declared non-diabetic, as long as he maintains his weight. Nathalie says he’s not really cured, he’ll always be diabetic, but the symptoms won’t manifest.
Nathalie says while she will always take blood pressure medication no matter her weight she feels a lot better since starting the diet. She says Dr. Du Toit has helped greatly.
“He’s very inspiring in that you can tell from everything he says that he’s deeply committed he is to every single person’s success,” she says. “He stops and asks and talks to you and knows what’s on your file.”
John says there are always new people on the waiting list.
“I’m just amazed what he’s done with this community,” he says. “I go around town and see people who were fairly heavy-set who are a shadow of their former selves,” he says.
Kerry Pearson is another one of Du Toit’s converts. She lost 95 pounds in about 34 weeks.
“I’ve done many, many diets in my life,” she says. “On this diet, you see really fast results.”
She points out the diet is a fairly drastic change from most people’s regular eating habits – dieters aren’t allowed dairy, most carbohydrates, and must space their meals hours apart without snacking.
Now she is maintaining her weight, and is working to run a 5 K.
“I was never a runner in my life – not even as a kid,” she says. “The diet industry is a multi-million dollar industry. 85 per cent of people who go on diets will fail. On this diet, though, it’s like you’ve got Kim, and Stefan and all the people at the clinic behind you.”
She says no other place in the world will you find a program with so many resources. They helped participants with recipes, they were giving out their home phone numbers so you could call them if you were having a melt-down.
“Your successes and your failures are shared with the community especially with a small town. When you make the commitment and say you want to make the change, it’s a very brave thing to do that.”
She says in the end, the diet is more than a fad.
“We have changed our way of life.”